President Bush is repeating his call for Israeli security forces to leave Palestinian-ruled areas. The president says the latest suicide bomb attack emphasizes the need for all parties to step back from the violence.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the Haifa bus attack reinforces the president's belief that Palestinians and neighboring Arab states must do more to stop the violence, while Israel must withdraw from Palestinian areas.
"The president has said enough is enough, Israel needs to pull back," said Mr. Fleischer. "Enough is enough applies to the Palestinians as well and to the Arab neighbors as well."
Mr. Fleischer says Secretary of State Powell is on a difficult, but crucial, mission to the Middle East to get all sides to refocus on the future. He adds the future must be about finding a way to bring the parties to peace.
"The violence has gotten to the point now where both parties are so engaged in the ongoing struggle for the Middle East, that the president wants to find a way to help the parties to help themselves," said Mr. Fleischer. "It will be difficult, it will be a challenge, but the president remains committed to it."
Mr. Fleischer says the president does not see Israel's continuing presence in Palestinian-controlled areas as a personal insult.
He emphasizes it is not a matter of personal prestige, it is the right thing to do. Mr. Fleischer notes the president is persistent in calling for a withdrawal and is certain Israeli leaders have heard that message.
"Democracies talk to each other on the basis of respect and on the basis of principle," he said. "And the United States presents its reasons to Israel about what the United States believes is the best course to pursue in order to create an environment for peace in the Middle East. We do so on the basis of friendship and on the basis of respect. The president reiterates that all parties in the region need to step up to their responsibilities in order to create that environment."
Mr. Fleischer says President Bush believes Israel's continuing military operations could still leave the country open to the risk of suicide bombings if it does not reach some sort of security agreement after it withdraws.